*By Robert Abunaw
Traditional rulers in Manyu Division, South West Region, home of the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla “Gorilla Diehli”, have petitioned Cameroon Conservation authorities to order the Limbe Wildlife Centre to publish details about the mysterious death of two gorillas at the centre recently. The gorillas are among the four stolen from the Takamanda National Park taken to Nigeria in 2001 and sold to zoo authorities in Malaysia, transported back to South Africa, before their final return to the Limbe zoo in Cameroon in 2007. Chief A. M. Etch, traditional ruler of Takamanda the core community deep inside the Takamanda National Park, in his petition states: “that the impact of this horrible event has been characterized with consternation from his community who now doubt the role of conservation in general and wildlife organisation in particular to promote and protect the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla”. A specialist, Jane Goodall said the African gorillas, as well as D.N.A test, showed that the apes came from the Cameroon-Nigeria Rainforest home to the Cross River Low-Land Gorilla. Initially the gorillas were confiscated from the Taiping Zoo by the government of Malaysia after four years of captivity and since the apes came to Malaysia via South Africa, they were shipped to the Pretoria Zoo in South Africa where they stayed between 2004 and 2007. The cultural custodian points out that traditional authorities in the Rain-Forest are losing credibility when it comes to sensitizing, educating and bringing traditional governance to bear on drivers of deforestation and wildlife poaching in Manyu division. he Takamanda royal father, like his subjects, is of the Topinion that the gorillas were poisoned before leaving the Pretoria Zoo in South Africa. His petition has received very strong support from the Paramount Ruler of Mamfe Town, Chief town of Manyu Division, home to the Takamanda National Park. “My kingdom, notables and myself were dismayed, con- fused and battered with the news of the death of the two gorillas”, chief dr oben regretted and stressed that “in my capacity as the first class chief in Manyu Division, I add my voice to the request for the urgent investigation of the dead of our gorillas”. Concluding, Chief Dr. Oben said he had no doubt that the results of the investigation should go a long way to give back “our credibility as grassroots promoters of conservation and wildlife protection in the Cameroon-Nigeria rain- forest”. An enquiry by the Government of Nigeria led by Dr. Imeli Okopido, titled “The administrative panel of enquiry to investigate the illegal trade (smuggling of endangered species of wild fauna and flora into and out of Nigeria)” dated 2003, made findings which clearly showed that the gorillas in the Taiping Z00 came from Nigeria. A roll-call of local and international organizations started a campaign to send the gorillas back to their original unknown jungle. A specialist in African gorillas, as well as D.N.A test, showed that the apes came from the Cameroon-Nigeria Rainforest. At a point, the South Africa Zoo authorities wanted to keep the gorillas, claiming that since their origin is still in doubt, they might as well maintain the four gorillas in the Pretoria Zoo. Pressure from international organisations forced the South Africa Zoo this time around to release the gorillas. In December 01, 2007, Reuters in a report by Tansa Musa said, “A male and three female gorillas were flown into the Douala airport from South Africa, where they had been kept in the National Zoological Garden in Pretoria, after the Malaysian Government had sent them back to Africa in 2004. One year after the arrival of the Taiping Four gorillas in Cameroon, the Limbe Wildlife Center was source for bad news. On the 3rd of June 2008, the world was told that a female member of the four gorillas, called Oyin, had died. Another of the four gorilla is said to have died at the Limbe wildlife centre recently. Limbe wildlife authorities now say specimens of the dead Gorillas have been sent to a laboratory aboard for appropriate tests to be run, however results of the test have not been made public. This is the more reason why tribal chiefs in Manyu division strongly believe the Limbe Wildlife Conservator, should hand over the bones of the dead gorillas to permit traditional authorities to perform traditional autopsy in a bid to find out what killed their gorillas.